If The Buddha Skied…

Julia, embodying post-fall joy. Note the trucker's hat and aviators. Just 'cause we're in the mountains doesn't mean we can't look good, right?

…He’d ski Red Coon Glades after a long sunny stretch. Because, as wise ski bums say, “Anyone can be happy on a powder day…it takes a real skier to smile in the crud.” And I’ll tell you what; Red Coon after a long sunny stretch is the real crud.

A couple weeks ago Julia and I got a less than early start toward the south-facing Red Coon Glades on Mt. Emmons (aka The Red Lady), which was sub-optimal, seeing as how she had to work at noon and all. But, we figured the Red Lady would be our best bang for the buck: climb straight out of the parking lot, and ski right back, sans approach slog. Plus, I figured the skiing would be mighty fine: last time I was there the snow was so deep I was poling hard to make it down 27-degree slopes, so I hoped that the sunny spell after the storm would firm up the powder and give us some play. Plus, the glades, like the January sun, are so [Read More]

Cameron Pass Conditions Febuary 9th

A couple of friends and I made it up to Cameron Pass on Tuesday and found great conditions. A couple weeks worth of mild weather allowed for the consolidation of the snowpack’s upper layers while the weak storm cycle that came through this past weekend dropped several inches of low density precipitation with little wind. Unfortunately the winds picked up Monday night and began their usual cycle of destruction. By Tuesday morning the face was a blank slate with few tracks from the weekend visible, (though soft sastrugi –like wind runnels were obvious on most exposed slopes). Another party of backcountry enthusiasts were skiing the slopes of South Diamond that slid back on January 10th and it looked like they had triggered a small slide near the summit ridge. Other small pockets of natural activity were visible on the center of the face as well. [Read More]

Spatial Variability: A Love Story

Monica, enjoying a beautiful, introspective tour.

It’s mating season in the High Country: all around I see the blossoming of new, survive-the-cold-of-winter romances, as well as (in my case) the bidding adieu to love past and passed. The stakes are high and our hearts, like a sketchy Colorado snowpack, are a veritable battleground of subtle yet dynamic, and powerful yet mysterious energies.

Last week I went for a tour with my friend Monica, who was in town to take her Level I avalanche course. As usual, the chug-a-chug rhythm and aerobic endorphins of steep skinning induced a good, philosophical heart-to-heart chat: my recently lost relationship, her recently budding-but-complicated relationship, relationships past and what we learned, relationships yet to come and what we hope. We climbed fast and between rapid breaths we chopped out the big questions of our day: “Why…doesn’t…he…just…tell me…” and “Maybe…she…needs…more…stability…” Over water and snacks, we had more continuous conversation: “I’m just not sure where this leaves me…” and “What are you looking for?”

What, indeed?

Second Bowl: The open face with the dispersed trees slid about 200 vertical feet below us as we stood on top.

As Monica and I topped out on [Read More]

The Mini Wapta

Pow powty pow pow, eh. That's Canadian for "awesome skiing." Craggy St. Nicholas Peak looks on approvingly.

First face shots. They’re an inaugural event that ranks right up there with the first night sleeping under the stars, first Brass Monkey, the losing of virginity, etcetera. My first face shots came in some glorious Cameron Pass powder – Montgomery Bowl, to be exact. I spent most of my youth snowboarding, so when I learned to Tele ski, snow in the face was quite novel.

I got the skin track blues. En route to the Mt. Gordon summit.

My friend Levi recently got his first (Cheers!). He drove 24 hours, toured for six days into the Canadian Rockies, and summited two peaks to get there, but get there he did, by god.

Levi and four mutual friends – Sam Riggs, Michelle Bodenhammer, Judith Robertson and Monica Reuning – recently completed the so-called Mini Wapta Traverse, a 16-mile round trip along the Wapta Ice Field in Banff National Park. The tour, with multiple day excursions including ascents of both Mt. Gordon (10,500 ft.) and Mt. Thompson (10,200 ft.), took them 8 days. The route is a shorter version [Read More]

Kick Skins

Kick skins: the most useful handful of gear since GORP. These BCA Skin scraps I use weigh in at 65g, including the tip clip. Add a hyper light stuff sack and total weight is 77g.

Unless you’re skiing the Red Lady, just about every backcountry ski tour in Crested Butte requires a fairly flat valley approach of 1 to 3 miles. The tried and true method for these laborious tours is to slog in and slog out with big fatty skins on those big fatty skis that are so much fun in powder. I’ve tried other methods, too. One day I skied home from Snodgrass with one skin on, one skin off, like some kind of seizing, lurching skateboarder. Granted, I made it back to the car before my ski partners, but when I got there I was so off balance I could only walk in counter-clockwise circles for a good four minutes. I’ve also tried kick wax, but that stuff’s too gunky; if you use it before the climb it’ll mank up your skins and then kill your downhill buzz.

Enter kick skins. In a nut shell, kick skins kick ass. I learned about them from all [Read More]

Cameron Pass Conditions January 11th

On Saturday around noon a large chunk of the N/NE face of S. Diamond slid. This is the third year in a row this slope has avalanched. Apparently it was a busy day up there; skiers and riders were farming turns on Ptarmigan Run, kids were hucking jumps at the base of Main Gully, and countless parties were traversing the bench below the face. Fortunately no one was caught in the slide. It is still unclear whether the avalanche was natural or remotely triggered by a party skiing along the ridge or down on the bench. [Read More]